Holiday memories of Mrs. Levy
December 19, 2008 · Updated 4:50 PM
The Levy’s were the only Jewish family in my small town.
I can’t recall anyone asked the question: “Where is your temple?” for Mrs. Levy and her two sons, who ran Levy’s Apparel, were gastronomically southern.
When Grandmother and I visited her home, which was often, Mrs. Levy served cheese straws not mitzvah balls.
Grandmother discussed Mary Baker Eddy far more than Mrs. Levy discussed Moses, so if any irritation existed, it was Mrs. Levy’s right to say, “No more Christian Science, please.”
She was a frequent visitor in our house. I can see her now in our wicker rocker on the front porch in the summer and the wicker rocker before the space heater in the winter. She was a round little lady with a round little face framed by an artfully arranged black bob.
Now that I think about those days, all women over a certain age, say 50, were round women. This was the day before Love of Leanness became fashionable.
Dresses in half sizes filled a rack at Levy’s Apparel and they were all alike in styling. They had ample waists, and room for aged breasts. Every lady wore a corset with painful stays and long garters that jingled whenever the ladies decided hose were, “too hot.” Frequently, the dresses had bows in the back.
Dressed for the day meant they were girded, perfumed, with hair done “just so.” Armored in their corsets, they could have taken on an army. Mrs. Levy was always armored.
The Levy’s owned a long black Chrysler, which took Grandmother and Great Aunt Bessie for Sunday, maybe even Monday-Saturday drives. Few people had long black Chryslers.
They would return to our home and again, Mrs. Levy and Great Aunt Bessie would fill the wicker rockers and whatever conversation had started in the car continued in the rockers.
After we moved with mother on her assignments to Brookhaven and Meridian, Mrs. Levy appeared soon after. She slept in whatever bed was free, uncomplainingly, for accommodations were meager in such lodgings. She took the same pose in whatever chair was handy and Grandmother and Mrs. Levy continued the endless conversation.
She came to Birmingham to witness my graduation from Mountain Brook Elementary school, but after that, she seemed to disappear from our family’s “important occasions,” such as me graduating from Sidney Lanier High School three years later. She may have simply wearied of long drives across the Alabama-Mississippi State Line.
Grandmother and she must have continued the conversation in letters.
Unfortunately, Grandmother’s letters, big and fat with high expectations of gossip, were pages of quotes from Mary Baker Eddy. I never saw a letter from Mrs. Levy, but I am sure they were there.
I know they loved each other, but with Mrs. Levy’s two sons and Grandmother’s three daughters challenged by husbands and wives that “were not worthy,” plus economic times being what they were, chancy, their lives grew too complicated.
The rare times I returned to that little town, I often went by Mrs. Levy’s house. It still sat back from the street. It was still painted a maroon color, and its foundation plantings seem the same, too.
It has lasted over all these years when our house was razed to make a parking lot for the neighboring funeral parlor.
When Christmas nears, I resurrect Mrs. Levy and my family’s devotion to her, and her devotion to us.
This is the time for recalling loving relationships for, what else feeds all that effort, the buying gifts, the wrapping, the cooking, the joy that lights the face of children, but love?
Here’s a Happy Holidays to the memory of Mrs. Levy, and a Happy Chanukah to boot.
Sally Robison is a Winslow artist and the author of “The Permanent Guest’s
Guide to Bainbridge Island.”